November 1, 2017: SHENSHEN, CHINA - Torvar Mirsky has become the Match Racing World Champion after beating defending champion Phil Robertson 3-1 in the 2017 finals in Shenzhen, China. The skipper from Western Australia tore up the script, defied the odds, and sailed out of his skin to beat the form sailor of the past two seasons, New Zealand’s Phil Robertson.
“We just had a momentum build,” said Mirsky. “Every race we were getting better. We felt like we were on a roll that couldn't be stopped, and it didn't. We managed to take down Phil Robertson, the World Champion, and now we are the World Champion!”
Mirsky’s precision sailing came as a surprise to a lot of teams, bearing in mind they haven’t done nearly as many regattas on the circuit since the arrival of the M32 catamaran. Robertson went into this event as the clear favourite and it looked like he would go all the way after dispatching fellow New Zealander Chris Steele 3-0 in the Semi Finals. “Unfortunately we couldn't cross the line first in the final,” shrugged Robertson. “We were outsailed, it's a one-event World Championships and Torvar did a fantastic job today. We have to take our hats off to him and accept he sailed better. But it's been a great season, we reached the final in every event, and we're taking steps in the right direction. It's been fantastic to be here in China, we're lucky to be sponsored by Ningbo and we have a massive fanbase in China which you don't really know about until you get here. It’s huge.”
The day started with Yann Guichard beating Taylor Canfield in the Quarter Final stage, which then saw the Frenchman progress to a Semi Final with Mirsky. Australia beat France 3-1, leaving Guichard to face Steele in the Petit Final. Most would have picked Steele, as the more experienced match racer, to get the better of Guichard who’s best known for his ocean-going exploits rather than his short-course prowess. However the Spindrift Racing skipper has been working hard on addressing his match racing weaknesses and it showed today as he beat Steele 2-1.
“It's my second season on the M32, and to get on to the podium is a big achievement for me and my team,” smiled Guichard. “It's been a great day, fantastic event, in fact the whole season has been fantastic. Last year we were sixth, this year third, so I hope next year first! I pushed my team hard all this season because I had so many weaknesses, especially in the start, so I am so happy with third place.”
Now Guichard and all his M32 crew mates are about to embark on a very different adventure as they take the 40m trimaran Spindrift 2 on an assault on the Trophée Jules Verne. “We have a big challenge ahead of us, the world tour, not the World Match Racing Tour, but the world tour around - the world! We want to be the fastest humans around the world, to beat 41 days around the planet, it's a big challenge. All my M32 team is on the big trimaran; it's nice to share a lot of time getting to know everybody during the year because that team spirit is very important on the big boat.”
As to Mirsky’s victory, the new World Champion commented: “All the teams are really close at this level, all the teams are working on little details. There are quite big shifts out there and we're always trying to play the percentages and make the most of what comes our way. I think we're always pretty consistent at making solid decisions and good crew work to make the most out of the decisions that we made. We were also strong in the starts, we showed that we were on to it. Our opponents had to play what we gave them because we were quite often in control there.”
Even more impressive is that Mirksy wasn’t even racing at the last Tour event in Chicago. “But I did watch every single minute of online footage because I needed to tune in with what the teams were doing. Also we have been racing the M32 in other circuits, but still our team felt a little underprepared in terms of regatta experience together. However I think that turned into a positive towards the end of the competition because we didn't have these expectations and we had a very good constructive discussion about how we need to improve. So for the time we've been in China, we've been getting a lot better with every race.”
While it appears that Mirsky has come out of nowhere, he has put in his 10,000 hours of match racing practice over the years. He couldn’t quite take in the enormity of today’s achievement. “Just huge, I've been working on this since I was 18; I'm 31 now, so it's been a long time. We've always been a top team. I stopped sailing for a while, went back to university, but came back to the World Match Racing Tour and crewed last year. This is my first season steering the M32 and we've always had the same philosophies and things we've built on from the beginning and I think that's really paid off today. It worked like a dream come true where I'm the World Champion.”
The World Match Racing Tour’s first foray into China has proven to be a big success, and there’s every intention for the Tour to return next year to work alongside WMRT China and the China Cup International Regatta to deliver another world-class event. With Emirates Team New Zealand winning the Beneteau 40.7 division of the China Cup today, top-flight competition has really started to take off in China and the World Match Racing Tour wants to be at the forefront of this.